Major changes in the routing of SkyTrain’s Expo and Millennium lines will begin on October 22 ahead of the pre-Christmas opening of the Evergreen extension of the Millennium Line to Port Moody and Coquitlam.
TransLink confirmed today that the Millennium Line will no longer travel from Waterfront to Lougheed Town Centre stations. It will instead run from VCC-Clark Station to Lougheed Town Centre Station, and eventually to the new Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station terminus in Coquitlam when the Evergreen extension opens later this year.
“We continue to get ready for the opening of the Evergreen extension and this is another milestone to celebrate,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond in a statement. “We are focused on helping our customers make a smooth transition to the new operating pattern.”
“By doing this well in advance of opening the Evergreen extension, we are giving our customers a chance to adjust and learn how the changes may affect how they travel on our system.”
Implementing the new routings early also provides SkyTrain staff with approximately one month of training time to learn and familiarize themselves with the Evergreen extension and the new routings.
The Expo Line will then be rerouted into two routes from Waterfront Station, with one route traveling to King George Station in Surrey and the other route running to Production Way-University Station in Burnaby before turning around. This would be similar to the configuration of the Canada Line with alternating trains traveling to Richmond-Brighouse Station and YVR Airport Station.
The realigned, non-overlapping routes provide TransLink with the ability to strengthen the capacity of the Expo Line, the region’s busiest SkyTrain line, while also making it more reliable as its frequency will no longer partially depend on Millennium Line trains.
It compartmentalizes the system so that when something goes wrong on one line, it is unlikely to affect another line on the same system. The realignment also eliminates a major source of confusion for passengers unfamiliar with the system: The looping of the existing Millennium Line route from Waterfront Station and then back to Vancouver with the terminus station at VCC-Clark.
For every two Expo Line trains bound for Surrey from Waterfront Station, there will be one train bound for Production Way-University Station. Passengers should look at station platform electronic displays and listen to voice announcements to know which trains they should board.
By having Production Way-University Station as a new third terminus station for the Expo Line, it reduces the need for an additional transfer for the tens of thousands of students and staff who travel to Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus daily.
The trains that operate on the Expo Line will be married into longer cars that fill the entire lengths of the platforms to disperse crowds, effectively reducing crowding. This includes the reconfiguration of the old Mark I cars into long 6-car trains and the use of seven newly-acquired new generation Mark III trains from Bombardier with a fully-articulated 4-car length design.
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The new routing of the Millennium Line will also provide a much-needed boost for the demand from the existing route between VCC-Clark and Lougheed Town Centre stations and the expected surge in ridership once the Evergreen extension opens. The $1.4-billion, 11-km-long, six-station addition is expected to add 50,000 daily riders to the Millennium Line upon opening, and as such it requires its independency from the Expo Line.
The Millennium Line’s frequency will double upon the opening of the Evergreen extension. Trains on the new Millennium Line route will run every three minutes during peak hours using shorter two-car trains.
When the Evergreen extension is open, passengers will be able to take a one-train-ride from VCC-Clark Station in Vancouver to Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station in just 35 minutes on both old and new sections of track. The new 11-km-long span of track from Lougheed Town Centre Station to Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station will take 15 minutes to complete.
CURRENT: Map of old (existing) SkyTrain routes.
FUTURE: Map of new SkyTrain routes beginning on October 22. The Evergreen extension, opening before Christmas, is not depicted in this version of the map.
FUTURE: The new stations and sections of track built for the Evergreen extension of the Millennium Line. Opening before Christmas 2016.
‘Evergreen Line’ name scrapped
The SkyTrain extension project was originally known as the Northeast Sector SkyTrain extension of the Millennium Line, and construction was to start after the completion of the Millennium Line in 2002.
However, TransLink’s then-elected board of directors changed the project from an extension of existing SkyTrain technology to a standalone light rail transit (LRT) system that operated on ground level. This necessitated a new name for the project.
Following a six-week-long competition that engaged the public, the “Evergreen Line” name was adopted for the LRT project. Approximately 1,450 entries were submitted by the public, of which two were shortlisted for consideration. “Spirit Line” and “Evergreen Line” were tested in focus groups, and the latter selection became the preferred name.
In early-2008, after the provincial government completed a business case that favoured SkyTrain’s superior capacity, speed, ridership, and synergies with the existing rail system, the LRT project was canceled and the project reverted back to being an extension of the Millennium Line as originally planned.
Instead of rebranding the entire existing Millennium Line as the “Evergreen Line”, the name has been scrapped.
The so-called future “Broadway Subway” will also be an extension of the Millennium Line and will not carry its own name once operational.
A new third platform has been constructed at Lougheed Town Centre Station to accommodate the station’s new role as a major interchange hub for both lines – in other words, a significant increase in train movements and passenger loads. New digital signage at the station and station platform voice announcements will inform passengers of which platforms to wait on and trains to board.
TransLink is also currently in the process of constructing a new third platform for the Expo Line’s inbound/downtown direction at Commercial-Broadway Station. The $60-million project also includes a new additional pedestrian overpass across Broadway between the Expo Line platforms and the Millennium Line platforms and 99 B-Line UBC direction bus stop as well as a widened pedestrian overpass between the north station concourse and the Millennium Line platforms.
The improvements to Commercial-Broadway Station are deemed necessary as passenger volumes at the station are expected to increase by 25% upon the opening of the Evergreen extension. Upgrades to the station should be complete by the summer of 2017.
The pre-Christmas opening date of the Evergreen extension will be announced over the coming weeks. As of earlier this month, the project is 90% complete and contractors are now working on completing station finishings and rolling trains onto the new track to test the new system.
At 79 km in length, SkyTrain will be the world’s longest fully-automated railway system when the Evergreen extension opens.
New train cars
The first of seven new generation Mark III trains for the Expo and Millennium line systems went into service in August, and the remaining fleet will arrive and go operational in the months to come.
At a press conference today, Desmond says he hopes another seven four-car Mark III trains previously announced by senior governments under the phase one transit expansion plan will arrive by late-2018 or 2019. TransLink has an open contract with Bombardier as it is the supplier of all of its trains on the region’s main rail system.
However, it will take longer to increase the Canada Line’s fleet as a new procurement process will be required. He anticipates that 22 new additional cars, to be paired into 11 trains, will be ready in 2019.
South Korea’s Rotem, a subsidiary of Hyundai, built the Canada Line’s original 20 two-car trains.